Film review of the dark comedy/horror starring Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick and Jackie Weaver.
Director: Marjane Satrapi. 1984 Private Defense Contractors/Mandalay Vision et al (15)
Cast & credits
Producers: Roy Lee, Matthew Rhodes, Adi Shankar, Spencer Silna.
Writer: Michael R. Perry.
Camera: Maxine Alexandre.
Music: Olivier Bernet.
Sets: Udo Kramer.
Ryan Reynolds, Gemma Arterton, Anna Kendrick, Jackie Weaver, Ella Smith, Paul Chahidi, Stanley Townsend, Adi Shankar, Sam Spruell.
Jerry (Reynolds) is a likable, young guy who works picking and packing at a bathroom furniture company. He also is a schizophrenic who is tormented by the ‘voices’ of his supportive dog Bosco and hyper-critical cat Mr Whiskers. When an English office girl he likes (Arterton) stands him up on a date, he accidentally kills her and hears her voice urging him to continue his killing spree.
Does the following sound a little weird: I was really looking forward to seeing this comedy/horror about a schizophrenic who talks to severed heads in his fridge?
Yes? No? Not sure? Have you logged off already to make a call to the local mental health trust?
Well, bully to you, but a Ryan Reynolds film with wit, brains, laughs (and, yes, beheading and dismemberment) is rare event indeed, one to thoroughly jump headlong into (pardon the pun), at least for the sake of novelty.
It makes a change to watch him in something that is not glib, sarcastic, unfunny or deeply unenjoyable, or that doesn’t rely on his all-American jock physique and looks. Here, he impresses in a very convincing about-turn as an ordinary, almost plain man with a number of very specific mental health issues. Physically, it’s a great performance: watch his facial expressions, the usually confident smile is replaced with a weird, rictus like grimace. The usual macho swagger becomes a self-conscious walk, shoulders hunched up and legs juddering along. He has also piled on a few pounds to banish his jock self.
He also proves adept at vocals, performing the voices for the dog, who has a slight speech impediment and a foul-mouthed Glaswegian cat.
The supporting cast are spot on and in on the black-as-pitch humour, arrogant Arterton, sweet and twee Kendrick and especially Weaver as Reynolds’ endlessly patient and ineffective psychiatrist who admits to a few mental issues herself.
It is the cat who is the best scripted character, coming out with some ridiculously cruel comments, including a sage observation that if Jerry gets caught he will go to prison and endure pain akin to be ‘fucked in the ass without any lube’. It’s little belters like this that raise nervous cackles and leaven the more gruesome aspects of the script, such as storing the hacked up remains of a work colleague in tupperware containers.
This film, Persepolis director Satrapi’s first English language effort, was never going to be easy to market and indeed this has struggled to find an audience. Some may view the mash-up of black comedy, visceral murders and song and dance routines a too tasteless mix of ingredients, but the sudden switches between these scenes match the swift and violent mood swings that Jerry and schizophrenic’s in general can experience. There are some beatific images, such as Arterton’s corpse surrounded by white flowers, similar to the clear beauty Jerry ‘sees’.
This disjointed and jagged feel also jolts the audience at key moments, keeping you alert, amused, bemused and always questioning. The Voices may not be the easiest film to sit through, but it is none the less a great experiment in pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable as entertainment in mainstream movies.